Maybe you have seen her on TV. Purple hair, openly gay, at once smiling and a little bit insolent. Her name is Megan Rapinoe. Scoring six goals during the tournament, the American soccer team’s co-captain helped the United States win its second consecutive World Cup.
But the 34-year-old is leading her most important attacks outside of the stadium. Megan Rapinoe defies Donald Trump, advocates for pay equality, assails her country’s incarceration and immigration policies, and promotes a more inclusive America.
On the field, her shots rattle the ropes of the opposing team’s net. Off the field, they shake the apathy that has overtaken too many people in the face of our society’s injustices — injustices that, in the United States, are often exacerbated by the words and actions of a president who sank into unacceptable behavior so long ago that we are sadly used to it.
The great fight of Megan Rapinoe and her teammates is equal pay for women. The American women’s soccer team, unlike the men’s team, dominates the world scene. However, the female players receive a fraction of what their male colleagues are paid. To those who respond that it is simply a question of market size, the American athletes skillfully reverse the question. They argue that it is smaller efforts of investment in the development and promotion of women’s soccer that explain this difference in popularity and therefore revenue.
A few months ahead of the World Cup, the American players made an audacious move. They filed a class action lawsuit against their own employer, the American Soccer Federation, demanding that this wage gap be closed.
“In the United States, repeated attacks on abortion access have somewhat centralized feminists’ focus on that issue — and rightly so, but the gender pay gap has taken somewhat of a backseat. Megan Rapinoe and her teammates have the merit of bringing this issue back to the forefront,” observes Andréanne Bissonnette researcher in residence at the Raoul-Dandurand Chair of the Université du Québec à Montréal.
Megan Rapinoe is also known for fighting for the rights of sexual minorities. But what distinguishes her is that the causes she defends go beyond those that touch her personally.
In 2016, she began kneeling during the U.S. national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial profiling.
She is now taking advantage of all the platforms available to her — and there are many — to bring these topics back up for discussion, on top of notably talking about the fate of migrants on the U.S. southern border. All while loosing arrows at the man who embodies the downward spiral of a country that, in some ways, is seriously ill: Donald Trump.
The world championship was not yet in the bag when Megan Rapinoe made it known that she and her teammates had no intention of going to the White House if such an invitation were to arise.
“Your message is excluding people. You’re excluding me, you’re excluding people that look like me, you’re excluding people of color, you’re excluding Americans that maybe support you,” she threw out at President Trump on CNN. She and her teammates, however, accepted an invitation from the U.S. Congress, showing that it is the president himself, not the entire American political system, that they are rejecting.
Megan Rapinoe is clearly neither the only nor the first person to denounce Donald Trump. But the few waves generated by the recent rape accusations against the president suggest that people’s indignation is running out of steam. Insults to foreign and local politicians, degrading words against women, attacks on the press, anti-environment, anti-establishment: pick one. The reasons for Americans to be protesting in the streets are multitudinous.
Taking advantage of her status as a winner and sports heroine, Megan Rapinoe is reviving the opposition and may succeed at reaching people who were unaware of the causes she is defending. Her popularity is continuing to rise; a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling showed that she would narrowly defeat Trump in a national election (a possibility she quickly dismissed).
Her straight talk certainly won’t do anything to reduce the division over these issues — Rapinoe said she would not go to the “fucking” White House, a word for which she later apologized. The fact that she denounces the president while wearing an American uniform has obviously elicited accusations of hypocrisy and anti-patriotism.
But the vision of the United States that Megan Rapinoe is defending should be heard. Her words, courageous and necessary, are awakening a dissidence that must not falter.